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Study helps pinpoint East Coast sea level rise

Location of tide stations on the Atlantic coast of North America. Sea-level data for U.S. tide stations are collected and distributed by NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

Rate of increase is highest along the northeast coast

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Calculating sea level rise has been vexing for climate and ocean scientists. Melting ice and thermal expansion both contribute, but the water doesn’t just go up evenly like a bathtub that’s filling up.

Pinpointing the rate and location of sea level rise is critical for planners tasked with adapting their communities to coastal flooding, said John Boon, emeritus professsor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

“Localized projections of sea-level rise are needed to guide the regional planning and adaptation measures that are being pursued with increasing urgency in many coastal localities,” said Boon, who recently completed a new study showing that the rate of sea level rise is increasing at tidal stations along the Atlantic coast of North America, including those in Norfolk, Baltimore, New York, and Boston. Continue reading

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Small fish make big splash in ocean carbon cycle

Fish poop.

Research team studies role of forage fish in sequestering carbon

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A still-popular first-grade book described the heroic efforts of a small fish to make a big splash. Now, it turns out that Arty’s dream wasn’t all that farfetched.

According to a new study by scientists with Rutgers University and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, forage fish like anchovies can play an important role as a biological pump in the cycle that moves carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the depths of the ocean, where its sequestered without adding to heat-trapping woes of atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Dr. Grace Saba, of Rutgers University, and professor Deborah Steinberg, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, shifted their focus away from their long-term studies of copepods to looking at anchovies in the Santa Barbara Channel, off the California coast. Continue reading

Environment: Jellyfish may get last dance

New study suggests jellyfish proliferation could discombobulate ocean food chain. Photo courtesy Anna Fiolek, NOAA Central Library.

Balance of ocean food web at risk as jellyfish blooms increase

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Warmer water temperatures, over-fishing and nutrient loading in coastal areas could result in a jellyfish takeover, according to a team of biologists who studied the role of the slimy floaters in marine ecosystems.

The scenario might be good for a jellyfish lover like the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants, but as numbers of jellyfish increase, they could tip the balance of ocean food chains away from fish and toward bacteria, the scientists with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science wrote in a paper recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jellyfish eat huge amounts of plankton, which is also the most important food for small fish at the base of ocean food chains. But jellyfish are not a significant food source for other animals and their waste products add almost nothing useful to marine ecosystems. Continue reading

Ocean dead zones now spread over 95,000 square miles

New website serves as clearinghouse for growing environmental issue

Ocean dead zones have spread around the planet in the past 50 years.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Ocean dead zones with low oxygen levels have spread during the last 50 years to encompass about 95,000 square miles — about the size of New Zealand.

“These dead zones, or oxygen deserts, are very damaging to the environment and also to people that rely on the sea for their livelihood,” said Professor Bob Diaz, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, announcing the completion of a new one-stop website that will serve as a clearinghouse for science and mapping of the damaged areas. Click here to visit the new website. Continue reading

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